Autocratic leadership – Sometimes Quite Effective

Autocratic leadership is when the head of the organization acts as though they have unlimited authority. Autocracy is not a thing of past. You can still see it at work in many types of governments, organization, industries and of course the Military. This is one of the least desirable when it comes to building trusting relationships and making friends! In this system, one person has control over all of the workers or followers.

When it comes to leading a group of highly skilled people in a consulting or non-profit organization, you will find that autocratic leadership can make you very unpopular. If communication and trust are important, you don’t want to lean too far towards this style.

When can this be effective? There is a time when autocratic traits can prove beneficial, mostly when absolute control is needed over a group. Have you ever worked on a group project that fell flat and needed to suceed before the deadline? That happens when no strong leader is present. An autocratic leader tells people what to do, issues orders and expects them to be obeyed. It is said to be acceptable to use this style in certain situations: in an emergency and when only the leader can make the decision. For example, only the leader can decide who to hire, fire and promote.
This leadership style has been greatly criticized during the past 30 years. Some studies say that organizations with many autocratic leaders have higher turnover and absenteeism than other organizations. Certainly Gen X employees have proven to be highly resistant to this management style.

This is often considered the classical approach. It is one in which the manager retains as much power and decision- making authority as possible. The manager does not consult employees, nor are they allowed to give any input. Employees are expected to obey orders without receiving any explanations. The motivation environment is produced by creating a structured set of rewards and punishments.

Studies say that thse sort of leaders:

  • Rely on threats and punishment to influence employees
  • Do not trust employees
  • Do not allow for employee input

Yet, it is not all bad. Sometimes it is the most effective style to use. These situations can include:

  • New, untrained employees who do not know which tasks to perform or which procedures to follow
  • Effective supervision can be provided only through detailed orders and instructions
  • Employees do not respond to any other leadership style
  • There are high-volume production needs on a daily basis
  • There is limited time in which to make a decision

Autocratic leadership style should not be used when:

  • Employees’ creative inputs are needed
  • Employees have open ended job requirements
  • Most non emergency situations!

Thus, this is an extreme form of transactional leadership, where a leader exerts high levels of power over his or her team members. People within the team are given very few opportunities for making suggestions, even if these would be in the team’s or organization’s interest. It is one of the most de motivating forms of leadership for employees and should be used very sparingly.

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